Importance of children’s advocacy highlighted – York Daily Record/Sunday News
York County’s congressman made a special stop in York Thursday to better learn the advocacy and protection work performed by the staff at the York County Children’s Advocacy Center in York.
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, was presented with a certificate naming him a “Champion of Children” by Deborah Harrison, the center’s executive director.
Perry is a co-sponsor of the “Fairness for Crime Victims Act of 2015” sponsored by fellow Pennsylvania Congressmen Joseph Pitts, a Republican, and Brendan Boyle, a Democrat.
The bill aims to protect the money in the Crime Victims Fund, established by Congress in 1984, which Perry said has been raided by various legislation to divert its funds to projects that have nothing to do with aiding the victims of crimes. The fund is supported by criminal fines and penalties and receives no taxpayer dollars, according to a co-sponsorship memo.
“We haven’t seen anything move significantly (on the bill), but telling your colleagues, signing onto and co-sponsoring and being an advocate for making sure that money gets to the victims as opposed to spread across all forms of government” is needed, Perry said. “There’s a reason the crime victim fund exists.”
Most of the counties that make up southcentral Pennsylvania host their own child advocacy centers. But of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, only 23 have such centers, Harrison said.
Having those centers is important, Harrison and others at the tour said, because it lessens the trauma a child could experience by telling his or her story over and over to various adults before it could eventually be prosecuted.
At the center on South Queen Street in York there is a room with bright red chairs where a child can speak directly to one adult who is thoroughly trained in forensic interviews to have the child clearly tell the story.
Behind two-way glass, law enforcement, a representative from the district attorney’s office and other authorities can also listen to the story so that they have the information, but the child only had to relive the experience once.
“When these kids are telling the truth, you know they’re telling the truth,” said Jason Loper, the police chief for Fairview Township and president of the center’s board.
When he served as a detective for his police department for 12 years, he would often have to handle the investigation of child physical and sexual abuse and accurate and professional forensic interviews are needed because it often comes down to a child’s word versus and adult’s.
York County is the eighth-most populated county in the state but has the third-highest rate of reported abuse, Harrison said.
The medical examining room is as colorful as the rest of the facilityÃ‚Â but sports wall paintings of children floating on clouds and riding balloons into the sky. It’s with that cheerful backdrop that Harrison and Deborah Nandor-Levin, the forensic nurse examiner on duty, told Perry of the successful life of a woman they had advocated for as a child.
But first, the children must pass through that room to be examined for evidence of abuse. Nandor-Levin said the majority of abuse is sexual.
“Most of us go through our daily lives not really comprehending how widespread it is,” Perry said of the abuse, following his tour of the facility. “We think it only happens in certain places, and this really brings it home that this transcends all boundaries, income levels Ã¢Â€Â“Ã‚Â class levels if you will Ã¢Â€Â“Ã‚Â all that.”